Anti-drug police dismantle drug mafia in Peru international airport

Peru anti-drug police have disbanded a well-oiled Mexican, or “Aztec Mafia,” which had infiltrated Peru’s Jorge Chavez International Aiport – corrupting police and customs officials – to ship drugs from Peru to Mexico, daily La República reported Tuesday.

On Feb. 25, 2009, police arrested Jesús Yesquén Huby, a former airport employee and informal ticket vendor, as he and an accomplice were allegedly about to smuggle 58 kilograms of cocaine aboard a Mexico-bound flight.

After questioning, police discovered that Yesquén was the tip of the iceberg in what was a larger “Aztec Mafia” working from within Jorge Chavez International airport to send drugs from Peru to Mexico.

According to police, Yesquén had a total of 18 accomplices, 15 of whom were airport employees — including customs and police officials, airport security agents employed by Lima Airport Partners, or LAP, and LAN Perú employees.

Yesquén, who allegedly paid his accomplices $1,600 for every kilogram of cocaine smuggled through airport security, used the “tag a piece of luggage to a passenger” technique to smuggle his illegal cargo to Mexico.

“A passenger, any passenger, checks in only one piece of luggage,” said Yesquén. “But the airline employee fraudulently registers two. Then, the counter agent hands the luggage ticket to the customs agent. With this ticket, the luggage and the drugs travel freely to the destination of choice, in this case Mexico, and there it is picked up by someone who has a copy of that ticket. This luggage was shipped aboard LAN Perú.”

Last February, when Yesquén was arrested by police, he was reportedly attempting to smuggle drugs with a different technique, yet not unfamiliar to Peruvian authorities: tightly packing cocaine between the internal metallic walls food cart filled with ham and cheese sandwiches.

The technique has been used repeatedly, suggesting that a well-run drug organization is working from inside Peru’s Jorge Chavez International Airport, police reported.

Once merely known as “mules” for Colombia’s indomitable cocaine cartels, Mexican groups such as the Juarez, Sinaloa, Tijuana and Gulf cartels have become significant players internationally, now bypassing the Colombians to buy cocaine directly from producers in countries like Peru.

In the past, information about Mexican organizations willing to buy directly from Peruvians were mostly anecdotal. Peruvian drug traffickers, rather, in their attempt to see their business flourish, were the ones who contacted Mexican gangsters by jumping the “imposed Colombian filter.”

Though the Andean region remains the production heartland of cocaine, for several years there have been indications that rising Mexican cartels are overtaking Colombia as the primary movers of cocaine to North American and European markets.

Mexico’s drug kingpins are only recently making their way South, prompting many Peruvians to worry that their country may spiral down in a maelstrom of drug-related violence and corruption similar to that which is now gripping Mexico and has afflicted Colombia since the 1980s.

Today, approximately 80 percent of drug production in Peru is being financed by these “Aztec Mafias,” which are now occupying territories once controlled by the Colombian Cali and Medellin cartels, La Republica reported.

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